Diversified Development Group has been going all in on building spec developments for the expansion anticipated by companies such as UPS, which is pulling the trigger on a Visalia hub.
Written by John Lindt
Power toolmaker Hilti Inc. has been expanding since it first located its distribution and service center in Visalia 25 years ago. Today, Hilti has three centers in the Visalia Industrial Park and has now leased a new 166,000 square-foot warehouse just built by Fresno developer John Brelsford next to VF Corp on American Avenue.
“This will be the largest distribution center for Hilti in the U.S.,” said Robert Rodriguez, regional manager for the company. Based in the tiny European country of Liechtenstein, there is nothing small about Hilti.
The privately held firm enjoyed a sales increase of 10.8-percent in Swiss francs, a total exceeding the $5 billion mark for the first time. The company has a big presence in the U.S. with 2,500 employees and headquarters in Plano, Texas.
“Wherever there is construction going on – we are there,” said Rodriguez noting that agriculture too is big user of their line of precision tools and building materials.
“Since we landed in Visalia we have gown several times over the years,” he added, emphasizing that the multi-site expansions underway right now will more than double its footprint here.
The expansions have split off into three different business complexes in recent years including a tool repair and service center on Goshen Avenue that is currently more than doubling its size, adding another building next to the current one.
A second Hilti facility is located at 8910 W Hurley Ave. Their Value Added Center will custom-make building materials like heavy girders for construction projects to be delivered to job sites.
Lastly the company’s current 50,000 square-foot distribution center on Doe Avenue will be relocated to the new, sprawling 166,000 square-foot building once the tenant improvements are in place in early 2019.
Added together the company will employ around 60 people, a number of who have moved up in the company over the years, working at Hilti facilities here in the U.S. or in Europe. Rodriguez himself was once the distribution manager here but has now worked his way up the career path to the regional manager for the Western states
“Visalia has been good to the company,” he said, praising the city’s Visalia Economic Development Corp., which recently sponsored a job fair for the industrial park. Rodriguez said the company appreciates city officials always ready to help speed up permits.
Rodriguez said Visalia is at the top of benchmark competition between company facilities for performance. He adds that the employees in Visalia have a strong ethic and “are not afraid of hard work.”
“Visalia remains the sweet spot for logistics,” he added, with transportation options making it easy to reach customers whether by UPS, FedEx or truck. Visalia’s distribution center ships out more than 1,200 orders a day, but expects to triple North American sales by 2020.
Rodriguez also praised developer Brelsford, whose decision to build ahead of demand allowed this company expansion. The three new buildings totaling 400,000 square feet were completed last winter and are now all filled with Hilti in the middle, Sonoco (Peninsula Packaging) and International Paper in buildings on either side.
Now Brelsford’s DDG company plans a repeat performance with plans for a new 700,000 square-foot complex being filed with city to be located on empty ground at Riggin Avenue and Plaza Drive under construction next year with four more buildings. DDG also has several other multi tenant logistics complexes in Visalia mostly filled. Visalia’s vacant inventory is at historic lows right now, say brokers, making new spec buildings key to attracting new companies.
Visalia City Councilmember Steve Nelsen is an admirer of both Hilti and Brelsford.
”Hilti has a long history in Visalia and continues to offer job opportunities for people here,” Nelsen said.
As for Brelsford “if he is ready to build another big project here, he has got to have more companies lined up,” he added.